Sinkholes in Business
Every few years, there seems to be a national headline showing a major unexpected building structural defect in a corporate property formed by a sinkhole, usually resulting in a full building collapse or major safety concerns. This then shuts down the property for the foreseeable future in a best-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, the once multi-million dollar property turns from a trophy asset into a giant pile of rubble within minutes. It is obvious that those effected will include any property occupants and owners. Oftentimes we forget about who else sees the effects as well. When the largest properties seeing structural issues, neighboring properties, people, and businesses are also forced to shut down for safety reasons – sometimes within three or four blocks in each direction.
The facts are that the effects of sinkhole incidents can truly be catastrophic.
When these incidents arise, after reviewing what happened, past information, and the property itself, investigators more often than not conclude in their definition that the incident was preventable and had many warning signs prior to the incident taking effect. News reports lead you to believe that the sinkholes come out of nowhere; however, that is not the truth.
Sinkholes may see their realized impact within a few seconds, minutes, or hours; however, the underlying ground features often built up over time before they finally gave way to the soil and structures above. Sinkholes are almost always the cause of water affecting an area over time.
Sinkholes are also common, seen in countries around the globe and all fifty states. In the United States, sinkholes are most common in 7 of the 50 states, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). These states are prone to all types of natural disasters, but sinkholes commonly. The causes of sinkholes is the subsurface conditions of the soil and rock beneath the ground. Of these seven states, Florida has the highest percentage of its land containing these challenging subsurface conditions as almost the entire state is composed of Karst and or Evaporite rocks. Due to these conditions, Florida property owners and those with property in a nearby portion of the southeast United States need to be extremely aware and careful of their property’s subsurface conditions or fear losing their property, business, or even some cases, their life. There have been incidents of entire properties being swallowed up by sinkholes in the snap of a finger, sometimes with people sitting in them and never to be found again.
How do you prevent this? It is less about prevention and more about monitoring and preparation. Oftentimes, due to these subsurface elements’ significance, it is not a question of foundational strength for a property. But rather the monitoring of these significant conditions. Any property, large or small in Florida, needs to have periodic subsurface evaluations. Too often, we see long term property owners either looking to cut costs or simply ignore the very real need for this monitoring of these conditions. These same owners are the owners who lose a life’s work before they know it.
At Florida Engineering, we provide a variety of monitoring solutions. Whether you are a long-term owner or a new property owner, we recommend substantial upfront evaluations followed by periodic review and reporting. Our review encompasses a variety of tactics used to determine the feasibility of a sinkhole causing your property damage. Oftentimes before a catastrophic disaster, there are visual signs that the untrained eye may miss, but the trained professional will see. These signs range from interior settlement cracks to ground depressions and even trees tilting. We’ll review the current conditions and provide you detail as to if any of the signs are noteworthy or not. In addition, we will perform a geologic analysis which will study data on the conditions of the local area, which generally indicate the likelihood of a sinkhole condition arising. Beyond this, we will use government geologic data to support our reporting. Our detailed reports will let you, your clients, and your investors know that they can confidently trust our professional analysis. We’re here to help and to keep you safe.